Stepmom is a good example for me of a mediocre script translated into a very good film simply because of great performances. Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon gave such delicate and yet, powerful performances that it was difficult not to be impressed. Each glance, glare or tear was spot on and together (along with a very good supporting performance from Jena Malone), they rose above the clichéd script and gave a film with a good mix of humour and emotional resonance. When news came of an official Indian remake of the film, I realised that the film wouldn’t be that difficult to translate for the Indian screen at all. Hindi moviegoers (including myself) have always been, and to a great extent still are, suckers for good emotional dramas. As long as the premise could be sold, it shouldn’t have been difficult for someone like Karan Johar to make the film work for Indian audiences.
However, We Are Family is a mixed bag, at best. While comparisons to the original are inevitable, it adapts the premise well making some interesting changes in the characters and the narrative structure which help make the premise more acceptable to an Indian audience. Also, they help the film stand on its own vis-à-vis the original, in parts for the better but more so, for the worse.
The premise is as follows: Maya (Kajol) is a perfect mother to three children: Aleya (13 years), Ankush (10 years) and Anjali (5-6 years). Despite her divorce, she has managed to maintain cordial relations with her husband Aman (Arjun Rampal) for the sake of the children. Things complicate, however, when Aman attempts to introduce his long time girlfriend Shreya (Kareena Kapoor) to the family. Resentment and insecurities quickly crop up and Shreya struggles to befriend the children and gain acceptance from them. An unexpected turn of events forces all of them to confront bitter truths and find ways to make this new “family” work.
The movie is messy and although it works in individual sequences, it just does not come together as a whole. Sure, there are improvements over the original. The character of the husband is far well developed here unlike the original where the man (played by Ed Harris) was completely upstaged by the women. However, there are many flaws as well. The culprit here is the script which is quite a few notches below even the original. The dialogues are absolutely uninspired and have none of the emotional resonance that the original did. The character development, especially of the teenage daughter is extremely flawed. In an attempt to be different from the original, the writer makes a mess of it in more than one place. In fact, the film does best when it’s literally translating the original like the final dialogue between the mothers or the gift exchange in the end. But such moments are few and far between and as a whole, it just doesn’t have even half the emotional impact such a story could have had. The direction by Siddharth Malhortra is good for the most part. It’s the script here that lets him down.
The only reason perhaps to recommend this film at all is the performances. Both Kajol and Kareena are perfectly cast as the mom and the stepmom. Kareena is perfect as the feisty, outgoing and independent career women. She looks less like a supermodel and more like a character which is refreshing. Kajol is even better taking to the role of the responsible, caring but insecure mother like fish to the sea. She proves that, irrespective of age, beauty or any other factor, she is arguably the most talented mainstream actress we have today. She emotes effortlessly and manages to leave me teary eyed despite the banal lines. Arjun Rampal demonstrates his growth as a dependable actor since Rock On by giving a very mature performance. Here, he isn’t given the lines but manages to make his presence felt through his expressions. He looks like an ex husband, a father and a weary man caught in an unusual situation. The younger children are extremely sweet and adorable but Aanchal Munjal as the teenage daughter is no Jena Malone and manages to annoy a lot more than endear.
On the whole, We Are Family is a disappointing fare thanks to a weak script. and bad dialogues. Kajol, Kareena and Arjun Rampal deserve better than this considering the effort they have put in. So do I for the $8 I spent on the ticket. Do yourself a favour, rent Stepmom instead.